How to Decide Where to Travel: The Paradox of Choice
I cannot count how many times I’ve had this conversation:
Me: “so what are you thinking of doing next year?”
Friend: “ah I really want to take a year out and go travelling!”
Me: “amazing! Where do you want to go?”
Friend: “I’m not sure yet- I want to go eeeverywhere. I can’t make up my mind.”
And so, another potential obstacle to travel is an ironic one really. Essentially, for aspiring travellers there can be so many places we want to go, so many things we want to see and so much stuff we want to do that it can be too difficult to decide on any one of them.
We end up doing nothing.
So, it can be hard to decide where to travel. I want to take a look at why this is the case and offer some suggestions to help make that decision a little easier!
The Paradox of Choice
The issue here lies in what’s called ‘the paradox of choice’.
This is where having too much choice can often prevent us making any decision at all.
Ever gone into the supermarket and spent half an hour deciding which sandwich to buy for lunch? If you're like me, this decision is inordinately hard.
There are too many options, my brain gets fried in the process of making up my mind and I end up walking out with a boring old cheese ploughmans...like every other day.
In the case of travel it can be exactly the same.
However, with travel, that easy ‘same choice as always’ translates to the decision to stay at home, saving the extra effort required to finalise travel plans.
How can you overcome this barrier to travel and finally decide what you want to do with your trip? How can we make this decision as easy as possible?
The basis of the problem is this: for most of us, decision making is hard.
No two ways about it- it just is. For instance, a part of me died inside every time I used to go to a restaurant with a big menu. I could spend a lot of time slowly perusing the options, changing my decision every few seconds.
Making that final choice became such an issue that I now make a deliberate point of making a choice and sticking with it as soon as I see something that sounds good.
I think choosing something on a menu is a great example of why decision making is hard: selecting one thing automatically denies you of something else that’s appealing.
We don’t like this forced sacrifice of positive alternatives.
At a restaurant this can lead to serious food envy.
How to Decide!
I think this illustrates two important lessons for decision making in general.
Firstly, everything starts with a choice and the decision to act. Don’t fall fowl of paralysis by analysis- doing something is better than nothing.
Secondly, once you’ve chosen, don’t dwell over what you’re missing out on. Remember, when the options in front of you are all good ones, you are guaranteed a positive outcome.
This is so so so relevant to making your travel plans.
Deciding which amazing part of the world you want to discover first (or next) is a pretty nice choice to make! I can almost guarantee that whatever you decide to do will be an amazing experience in one way or another.
All you have to do is decide.
Ever heard the tale of the donkey that died of hunger between two equally appealing bales of hay?
Sometimes we just have to make a decision. I find this Goethe quote useful to remember when I’m a little stuck on a decision. He said this:
When you’re deciding your travel plans, taking active steps to work out what you might want to do will go a long way helping you make the final decision.
Equally, try breaking the issue down by figuring out the answers to smaller questions.
Whenever anything feels too big to deal with, it is a good idea to break things down into more manageable chunks. In the interest of doing and achieving this focus, try:
- Researching the destinations you’re most interested in.
- Working out how much money you would need.
- Contemplating must-do activities on your bucket list.
- Thinking on whether you want to travel solo or in a group.
- Asking your friends what they think or even where they’d want to go.
- Considering the type of experience you want to have do you want to be spontaneous or have something more structured? What sort of weather do you like? What time of year are you planning on travelling?
Considerations such as these help transform your willingness to action, helping to focus that loosely held, grand desire to travel.
Hopefully they'll get you closer to deciding what you want to do for your future trip.
When it comes to deciding on travel plans, some lucky people just know what they want. For others, the abundance of choice can be incapacitating.
Sometimes, it can feel easier to forget the initial enthusiasm about the prospect of travel.
Don’t let this be you!
Instead, take the pressure off the decision by simply making one and recognising that whatever you do will be awesome.
Do your research, stop wrestling with yourself, make a choice, be happy with it, buy a ticket and go travelling.
It will be the best decision you ever make.